Monday, November 25, 2013

Plotting for Christmas

The past few months I've been trying to figure out what we should get Westly for Christmas. We've taken him to Toys R Us a few times and watched what he found interesting or gravitated toward. I've watched which toys he likes to play with at church and his friends' houses. It's kind of tricky. I know my kid pretty well, but he still manages to surprise me. And I need to figure out what he will like in a few months, as I want his Christmas gifts to take him into the new year.

His list I've made for him:

Wooden Train Track Set
Soccer Goal
Marble Maze

Any other suggestions?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Q & A

My favorite part of the author visits I do at schools is the Q & A time with the kids at the end. They always ask great questions. Here are a few I got this week:

Q: How long have you been writing?
A: Since I was about 8 or 9 years old.

Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: Usually from the time I start writing to the time I release the book it takes about a year. It takes me about 3-4 months to get a first draft, then the rest of the time is spent on revising/editing.

Q: Which book is your favorite that you've written?
A: That's a hard one! I usually love the book I am currently writing, but now that I'm all finished writing the series, I have to pick one. I think Book 4. I took some risks in my writing and it paid off. The last book was the hardest for me to write, so I'm the most proud of that one.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Sherlock Academy?
A: From my love of Sherlock Holmes. He's my favorite literary character. I thought it would be great to introduce Holmes to kids by writing a series that involved him. The best ideas come from things you love. Write about what you love.

Q: What's you favorite thing about writing?
A: Imagination! The ideas are limitless. It's exciting to create something and use your imagination to ask "Why?" or "Why not?"

Q: What are you working on now that the series is finished?
A: Another middle-grade mystery. It's very different from Sherlock Academy, starting with the protagonist being a girl this time. But I'm excited about it. I hope to have a first draft done by Christmas.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Author Visit

This past Monday I did an author visit at North County Christian School in Atascadero. It was for grades 2-6th. I have to say I really hate all the pre-stuff to an author visit: scheduling, arranging, getting directions, estimating how many books to bring, finding a sitter for Westly, etc. But once I'm there in front of the kids, it's all worth it. I love sharing my ideas and all about stories with kids. I also love answering their questions, and best of all, signing a book for them. Someone asked me recently, "So what do you do?" Here's a general outline of my author visit presentation:

I start by asking kids to raise their hands if they love to read mysteries. Then if they love writing stories.

I introduce my series to them, and give them a little background on Sherlock Holmes and how he ties into my story.

We talk about elements of a great story. I have the kids share what they think a good story should have, and I use examples from my books. All their ideas are usually good and correct, but you can sum up what a story really needs with three things: character, setting, and plot (problem). I grab a volunteer to wear a top hat to represent character, one to hold a large map of London to represent setting, and one to hold my jar of marmalade to represent plot (the jar of marmalade is a key component of the plot in Sherlock Academy Book 1).

Next I share about my writing process: getting ideas, keeping a notebook of ideas, writing my ideas, publishing my ideas.

I reserve the last ten minutes for a Q & A time with the kids. After the presentation, I sign books.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Potted Potter

This weekend Michael and I went to a special theatre performance called Potted Potter. In this parody two actors played all the parts as they told/acted out all 7 Harry Potter books in 70 minutes. So much fun!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Slow Work

So I’m plunking away at my book. I’m making progress, but it’s S..L..O..W. First drafting (a term I made up for when you’re writing a first draft of a book), is slow work. I am creating the story from scratch, and still trying to find my way through the fog. I’m about 2/3 of my way through the book, but I’m still trying to flesh out the climax, and the message of the book. And I’m revising as I go along and solidifying the story. I’m averaging about a chapter a week, which takes about 3 hours to get down. I have to admit, I prefer the revision stage over first-drafting, because in the revision stage you have a structure to work with and can spend your time making it better. My goal is to have a first draft done by Christmas.

Plunk, plunk, plunk

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Look What I Found

Every three weeks Westly and I go to our little library in Orcutt. We've been doing this since he was about 18 months old. He loves it, and I know it's promoting literacy in his life. While I was perusing books in the children's section, I came across a delightful surprise that made me literally exclaim aloud "Oh!" It was a wonderful, surreal moment.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November's To Do List

Finish a first draft of my children’s book
Mail my grandma a birthday card
Make a Thanksgiving banner
Buy a knitted scarf
Make a list of editors to send my book to
Make Westly’s Christmas list
Drink more pumpkin spice lattes
Read through my first draft
Watch all the FRIENDS Thanksgiving episodes
Do a turkey craft with Westly
Make pumpkin French toast
Make my Christmas list
Mail my sister in Belize pictures of Westly
Find the perfect autumn shade of nail polish
Return library books and get more
Refrain from trimming my bangs—trying to grow them out
Do the 30-day abs workout plan
Get through my November InStyle mag
Make a list of agents to send my book to
Read Charles Finch’s latest mystery An Old Betrayal—can’t wait!
Buy Westly longer pants and bigger shoes
Celebrate my one-year friend-iversary with my bestie Erin

Decorate for Christmas

Friday, November 1, 2013

Birthday Wishes

Today is November 1, which is my darling husband Michael's birthday. He is one-of-a-kind, for I have never met anyone like him and I know I never will. I remember after first meeting him many moons ago I thought to myself, "I need this guy in my life, for he is so unique!"

He is ridiculously creative, sincerely dedicated, shamelessly energetic, genuinely funny, humorously opinionated, classically stylish, and holistically Michael. 

He loves me so perfectly, supports me in my passions, thinks of me constantly, and fills my life with joy,

He is a natural-born teacher, a gifted vocalist, an imaginative writer, an accomplished doodler, a superb event-planner, and most of all, he is the BEST daddy to Westly.

He has taken me on many adventures, has wooed me with many dates, has spoiled me with many presents, has enriched me with laughter, has challenged me in positive ways, and has provided for me immeasurably. 

I cannot imagine this world without Michael Shaw, and I cannot fathom my life without him. 
Happy Birthday, to my bosom friend and the love of my life!